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Armed and Ready

I’ve been posting about the last days as described by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians. My last post was about how we need to live as we see the end in view. Paul continues to share about it.

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

He tells us to put on faith and love as a breastplate. As you know, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I believe that this is the oil and the lamp that we’re to keep burning. These are the two non-negotiable parts to serving God.

In this verse Paul is clearly referring to our spiritual armor. He even makes mention of the helmet of salvation. But instead of assigning righteousness as the breastplate, he says that faith and love are used in that role. Paul is telling us that it’s the combination of our faith and our love working together that completes our righteousness.

According to Scripture, without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and without love your faith is worthless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). You have to use both of these spiritual commodities. You can’t live for God without faith and love.

And so, these fruit need to be evident in all of our good works. Everything we do for the Lord has to spring from faith and love. Paul is in total agreement with the teaching of the Lord as found in the Gospels.

Finally, we must have the hope, or literally, the expectation of salvation as a helmet. We have to expect the salvation of God. We know what’s going to happen. We know that God is going to rescue us, so we might as well live like it.

Paul said that we’re not appointed to wrath. According to the Lord’s own words, wrath was not going to fall until the Last Day. Before it fell, however, Jesus said that He would gather up His elect to Himself. All of this happens on the last day of the age, according to Jesus. The Church will be taken to safety first, and then the wrath of God will fall.

It’s clear from both the teaching of Christ Himself and Paul the Apostle that God did not appoint us to wrath. What Paul is saying here is that we who are alive in the last days – who see the signs approaching as labor pains – must not get worried as people who don’t have any hope.

We must realize that we have the helmet of salvation on. We’re not appointed to wrath, so when The Day gets here, we’re going to be protected.

Don’t worry about the future, even though you see problems coming. Be prepared. Be self-controlled. Be alert. Be working for God, but don’t be afraid.

The last thing we need to remember is to continue to encourage one another, to build one another up and to exhort one another as, in fact, we should be doing.

That’s what being a part of the church is all about. We must help each other in areas of weakness. It’s only as we work together that we’ll gain the victory.

Question: How does your future hope affect your walk with Christ today?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Living as Light

I’ve been posting about Paul’s view of the Second Coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians. We understand that the Resurrection Day is the great hope of the church. At this point in history, we can see it approaching very quickly. But our understanding of Christ’s return is not just about the future.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-7

The word night speaks of a segment of time – but we’re eternal. Because we live in the eternal realm, we are of the day.

Darkness speaks of a place – but we’re seated with Christ in heavenly places; that’s the kingdom of light. So the night and the darkness is not our time and place.

Paul also tells us the attitude we need in the last days. He says that we’re to be alert and self-controlled. The literal meaning of these words are awake and sober. We can’t be in a spiritual stupor and be victorious as we approach the end of the age.

We need to be what we’re called to be. It’s not our destiny to blend in and become part of the whole. It’s our calling to show that there’s a different way to live.

John the Baptist is an example to us of how to minister to the world while living in the Kingdom of God.

I believe that because of our end-time ministry, we are the “John the Baptist Generation”. There were some interesting prophecies recorded in Scripture about John that I believe can be applied to us.

“…because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Luke 1:78-79

Our generation must be a light in the darkness. There has never been a darker time in the modern world. Unless you’re living with your head in the sand, this is an undeniable truth.

We need to understand what being the light entails. It’s obvious that light gets the attention in the dark. There’s no getting around that. We’re not called to just blend into the background.

This is because a light stands in direct opposition to the darkness. There cannot be any two kingdoms that are more opposite than the Kingdom of God and the world.

We are not a part of this society. We live here, work here, and have to interact with those around us. We need to be loving, productive, and contributing to the welfare of our community. But the fact is we don’t BELONG here.

It’s time for us to live up to this calling. The world is desperate to hear the message that’s been entrusted to us. We need to stop chasing their dreams and live for Christ with an urgency that reflects the times we live in.

This generation of the church needs to grow up so that we can function as we must at this time in history. Be equipped with the spiritual weaponry. Be listening and hearing a Word from God. Then continue to walk in that word.

Finally, if we do these things we will be the light that will draw people to Christ. We are the John the Baptist Generation.

Questions: How much light is the church producing right now? How can that light be increased?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Ministry, Return of Christ, Revival

 

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Not Surprised

I’m looking at Paul’s teaching in his first letter to the Thessalonians. In this section, he’s answering their questions about the Second Coming of Christ. Now, Paul is going to move on to answer the next question posed by the church – when is it all going to happen?

Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

Paul’s talking here about those that aren’t prepared. Jesus used different words to convey the same meaning. The Lord said that to those not ready, He was going to come like a thief in the night. But He also said that the saints weren’t going to be caught unprepared. Even the way Paul describes it shows this truth.

Paul said that it was going to come suddenly like labor pains on a pregnant woman. Please realize that most women make it to the hospital in time. A mother-to-be knows that there’s a baby on the way. She even knows, within a few weeks, when the baby will arrive.

The woman can feel that there are things happening in her body. Sometimes they can even say, “It’s only a day or two now.” Why? Because she can feel within her that something is going on.

And then finally, when the labor pains arrive, she knows that it’s time to get to the hospital. She can feel them mounting. She knew what to expect, and it didn’t take her by surprise. Very few women experience labor so quickly that they don’t make it to the hospital.

That’s what it’s going to be like for us. We know what to expect. We’ll not be taken by surprise. The labor pains may come upon the world quickly and unexpectedly, but the delivery – the coming of the Lord – will not be a surprise to the church.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
1 Thessalonians 5:4

That’s why we, as believers, should not be worried or anxious about all we see happening around us. We have the light of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We know what’s coming.

We should be living for Christ with the knowledge that God is bringing all things to the fulfillment of His will. This should cause us to be excited about the future, not worried.

We know how the Book ends – WE WIN!!

Question: What is your anticipation level when you think about the return of the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

NOTE – If you want a more detailed look at the Second Coming of Christ, then click here to read about my new book.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Return of Christ

 

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The Walk of Patience

I’ve been posting from the book of James – the first book of the New Testament to be written. This means that the following passage is the first mention of the Second Coming of Christ.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near.
James 5:7-8

James likens the wait for the Lord’s coming to the patience of a farmer. He says it’s very important for us to be patient. The Greek word he uses for patience is a compound word that means, long-tempered.

In other words, don’t get frustrated easily because it’ll be a long wait.

A farmer has to be long-tempered as he waits for the land to yield its crop. He must wait for the fruit. He can’t just plant the seed and get frustrated that the next day he doesn’t have a harvest. A lot of Christians have to understand this process. We learn a truth today, and we expect it to be living, active, and producing fruit in our life tomorrow. It doesn’t work that way.

When I learn something today, I must relearn it again tomorrow. I then need to relearn it again the next day. Finally, I get to the point where it’s not just in my head but also in my heart. Then, after getting it in my heart, I have to wait for it to grow and produce fruit. That’s the way the Word works.

If this is the process of growth, then it’s the same thing with the coming of the Lord. We have to wait for the right time – the time of the harvest.

James said that the farmer has to wait for the autumn and spring rains. You might think that he had it backwards. For us the order is spring and then autumn rains. In Israel, however, they have a whole different climate than we have.

When we plant, we plant in the springtime because it’s too cold in the winter to do anything, and then we harvest in the fall. In Israel it’s too hot and dry to grow anything in the summer. So they plant in the autumn, when the first rains of the autumn come, and the seed starts to grow.

It then becomes cooler in the winter and there’s a lot more water available. Then in the spring, they take in the harvest. At that time they look for the spring rains to get that final growth spurt before the fruit is picked. Then comes the summer, when it’s too hot and dry to grow anything.

That’s what it’s like concerning the church. James says that the beginning of the church is like the autumn rain. It seemed like everything was happening at once. There were miracles, signs, and wonders. It was an incredible time to serve the Lord.

Then, if you remember, in some of His parables, Jesus said it was going to be as if the church would fall asleep. He said a farmer fell asleep. He said that the ten virgins fell asleep. In all of these parables, the church was seen as entering a time of dormancy. That’s pretty much what the church did over the centuries.

But now, God’s waking us up again. That’s one of the reasons why I believe we’re in the last days. We’re seeing things happen by the sovereign hand of God. We’re seeing the church come to life again. I believe we’re heading into the spring rain getting us ready for the harvest.

So if I need to be patient, then what do I do in the mean time? According to the Scripture above, while I’m waiting, I must stand firm. This word means to establish yourself. We’re to be steadfast in what we’re doing for the Lord.

It also means to look resolutely in one direction without turning. That’s God’s will for us while we wait patiently for the Lord’s return. Once we put our hand to the plow, we don’t look to the right or to the left. We just stand fast, in faith, with what the Word of God says.

Question: How does patience give you a better attitude toward God’s work?

To find out about my new book on the Second Coming of Christ – Click here!

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Faith, Return of Christ

 

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Jesus Christ – Our Living Hope

Cloud2For a couple of posts we’ve looked at the first time Jesus mentioned the Last days in His teaching (John chapter 5). It’s the basis for constructing our picture of the future return of the Lord.

As I said before, we’ll build “line upon line, precept upon precept” as we go along. In future posts, we’ll be making the picture more complete.

“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
John 5:26-30

The cross is our starting point. We come along about 2000 years later. The physical resurrection of the dead that Jesus talked about hasn’t happened yet. But, we know for a certainty that someday the dead are going to rise and there’s going to be a time of judgment with the result being either eternal life or eternal condemnation.

We don’t know when it’s coming, but there will be a resurrection day. In Jesus’ teaching, that we looked at in my last post, the disciples hadn’t heard anything that was new to them. Jesus didn’t start with some new doctrine that they’d never heard before.

You can find teaching on the resurrection throughout the Old Testament, too. Job looked forward to it in the book of Job chapter 19. It’s a Scripture that’s probably familiar to most of you. It was Job’s statement of faith that one day he was going to see the Lord.

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
Job 19:25-27

Even in the Old Testament, believers knew that there was going to be a resurrection. They understood that God was not going to leave His people in the grave. It’s in a few other places in the Old Testament as well. Not a lot, but enough to let us know that it was a recognized concept.

The Old Testament saints knew about it. Even the Pharisees, as a group, believed and taught that one day God would bring about the resurrection of the dead.

This is where Jesus starts out. It’s a very simple concept, but He begins where His disciples were familiar – the fact of the resurrection.

The only shocker in His teaching was that it will be the voice of Christ that causes the dead to rise. I’m sure that the Pharisees had some choice thoughts on that subject. We, however, are given a foundation upon which to build the rest of the teaching on the return of Christ.

It’s the Lord Himself who is our resurrection. It’s His voice who will call us from our graves to a place of victory. This is a day we can all look forward to as believers. Knowing this, we now have a proper foundation upon which to build the rest of our end-time teaching.

Question: How does the hope of the resurrection comfort you, especially in uncertain times?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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Do You Know the Two Resurrections

GravesWe’ve been discussing Jesus’ teaching on the resurrection as the key to understanding the Second Coming. In talking about this, the Lord describes two kinds. Here is the first.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
John 5:24-25

It’s obvious that Jesus is talking about a spiritual resurrection here, because He uses the phrase, has now come. It was not future, but was being fulfilled in the days that Jesus walked the earth.

The Pharisees were the dead people (spiritually) that Jesus was talking about. He was telling them, “Wake up! You’re dead and if you want life, you must believe and obey my words.”

It was time for them to hear and live. Jesus loved them and desired that they would pass over from death into life.

They could have experienced the life-giving power of God. Unfortunately, their pride kept them from accepting Christ for who He was. Even today pride is one of the biggest hindrances to the move of God in the church.

Jesus makes an important point here. It’s the basis of our belief in His return. Christ is the Life-Giver. This is the foundation for everything else. He uses it as the platform from which to speak of His future ministry of raising the dead (physically) to life.

“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
John 5:26-30

This is the first recorded incident in Jesus’ ministry where He mentions the end-times. No, He doesn’t say a lot about it, but what He does say is at the very core of our belief in the Second Coming.

Jesus explains that there’s a day coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and will come out – those who have done good will rise to live; those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

Unfortunately, we usually miss this key. Yet it’s the foundation stone for everything else that you’ll learn about when you study the Second Coming of Christ. The entire message that Jesus teaches builds on this.

Question: Have you experienced spiritual resurrection? How did it change your outlook on life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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Jesus Christ the Life Giver

One WayI took a couple of posts to deal with the importance of properly studying the Second Coming of Christ. Now I want to look at the key to it all – resurrection. That was the first track of teaching that Jesus brought to His disciples.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 5, we have the first recorded mention that Jesus makes of the end times. I find it amazing that even though this is where Jesus started, I’ve never heard anyone else begin here. As a matter of fact, in this blog you’re going to look at a lot of Scripture not commonly taught as pertaining to the Second Coming of Christ.

In this section of Scripture, persecution is starting to arise because of the things Jesus is saying and doing. The Pharisees don’t like the way Jesus is ignoring their religious traditions. Among other things, He’s healing on the Sabbath.

In this chapter, the Pharisees were starting to have a problem with the Lord. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus made himself out to be God in the flesh. According to the Old Testament, that’s who the Messiah was meant to be.

Jesus couldn’t lie about who He was. Of course, this didn’t sit well with the Pharisees, who wanted all the praise for themselves. They didn’t want to hear who the Lord was, because it meant that they would have had to submit their will to His.

In spite of their unbelief, the Lord starts to explain some things to them.

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.”
John 5:19-21

Jesus is telling this group of unbelieving Pharisees that He does the same work as the Father. The Father can raise the dead, so He can raise the dead. This is the basis for our trust in Christ. He’s the Life-giver. If I want to live an abundant life, then there’s nowhere else I can turn to.

Elsewhere, Jesus says emphatically that He is the Resurrection and the Life. Our hope must be firmly planted in Him. He’s the source of our life.

The next few verses tell us that Jesus has the same authority as the Father. Disrespect of the Son is disrespect of the Father who sent Him. That’s why any study about the Return of the Lord must start with His teaching. If I contradict His word, then I’m the one who’s wrong. His teaching is the basis for all others.

Question: What place of authority does the teaching of Christ have in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2016 in Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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